Parshot Festivals

This Pesach, let’s dig deep

  • ChiefRabbi
This is going to be a Pesach like none other. As we follow the stipulations laid out so resolutely by our state president – observing them not just as law-abiding citizens, but as Jews for whom the protection and preservation of human life is one of the highest Torah values – we will confront something we’ve never confronted before.

This year, we will be having our seders on our own.

Some will be literally on their own. Others will have their spouse. Many younger families will have their children. But for each person, each family, it’s a different challenge.

What this means is that, as a community, as families, and as individuals, we’re going to have to dig deep to make the seder experience deep, meaningful, and emotionally and spiritually invigorating. It’s going to test us and stretch us. It’s also, I believe, something that will make us stronger.

We’re accustomed to big seders, big gatherings of families and friends; we’re accustomed to having the energy of the sheer number of people carry the seder experience. This year, we don’t have that blessed luxury. This year, the circumstances will force us to look at the haggadah in a way we’ve never looked at it before. Without the crowds to carry us, we will need to examine the haggadah more closely. We will have to scrutinise the ancient words to appreciate their eternal depth and meaning, and draw out their eternally relevant life lessons. We will need to truly immerse ourselves in the exodus, the divine story of our people, in order to appreciate the divine direction we receive from our tradition.

It’s going to require some effort and preparation on our part. And I’d like to suggest two practical ways in which we can prepare for seder night.

First, to help draw out the meaning, guidance, and inspiration of the haggadah, I’ve asked the wonderful rabbis and rebbetzins of our community to come together and share their collective wisdom with all of us. Many of them are writing short inspirational pieces that we will be compiling into a special South African haggadah companion to be shared with the entire community in the coming days.

I would encourage everyone to go through these ideas, to explore them as preparation for the seder: to print out the companion (if possible) and select a few ideas that really speak to you to read out at the seder. I also encourage you to do your own research beforehand. There are so many wonderful resources on the internet, and so much wisdom buried in our own haggadot sitting on our shelves waiting for us to delve into them. Let us truly prepare for seder night this year. And, of course, the more we put into the experience, the more we will get out.

There’s another way we can prepare. The seder night is such a rich family experience. There’s something we can do to hold onto that, even in these circumstances. What I’d like to suggest is for all of us who aren’t going to be together to write each other personal seder notes. To look into the haggadah, and see what comes to mind, what personal insights and words of love and connection we feel moved to share with our loved ones. These notes can be so special and powerful. It will be so beautiful for grandchildren to share notes with their grandparents, and for parents to share notes with their older children. For all of us to share with each other. These notes should be emailed to the recipient before yom tov (the Jewish holiday) and printed out, but not read, and then opened and read at the seder. In this way, we can truly feel the presence of our loved ones at our seders even though they aren’t there in person.

We can choose to submit to circumstances or we can choose to rise to the occasion, dig deep, and find the strength and resilience to make this the most inspiring seder yet.

We can find a way to make our seders an experience to remember – perhaps the most memorable we’ve ever had.

I wish you all a chag kasher v’same’ach – a beautiful Pesach, and deeply meaningful, enriching seders.

May G-d bring health and healing to our community, to our country, and to our world.


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